Clarke County to Continue Drug Fight

Starting Oct. 1, the Clarke County Sheriff's Department will no longer be a part of the East Mississippi Drug Task Force. Why?

"This is just an economic decision that we had to make," said Sheriff Todd Kemp.

With a $20,000 yearly contribution, Sheriff Kemp said for now at least his department just can't afford to be a member.

"It's a money crunch here in Clarke County with job losses, with the factory closing and stuff like that, tax money is not flowing like it used to. All county departments have to take some cuts," Kemp said.

The benefits for being in the task force included access to its resources such as surveillance equipment. Although the department will not be able to do all that it has done in the past, Kemp said he is committed to fighting illegal drug use.

Therefore, he said he plans to use at least half of the money that was going to the task force, to strengthen the department so it can concentrate solely on addressing that issue.

"When you have an effective drug program, it curtails robbery. It curtails burglary. It curtails a lot of the crimes that we ordinarily handle," said Kemp.

How will the change affect the other two members of the task force, the Meridian Police Department and the Lauderdale County Sheriff's Department?

"We don't believe it's going to have a major impact on our enforcement efforts," said Sheriff Billy Sollie. "We're going to have to get with the city of Meridian and look at the match on this grant. It was divided three ways with Clarke County pitching in one-third. We're going to have to sit down with city officials and with county officials and try to find the difference."

If all goes well, Kemp said his department will rejoin the task force within the next two years. Meanwhile, he says his department will take on the task for itself.

"We've done that before and we're capable of doing it to the best of our ability," said Kemp.